Quakes, quakes, quakes

Getting tired of this...

The problem is that they are RIGHT UNDER ME.  Small quakes RIGHT UNDER ME pop the house and scare the shit out of the dogs... And daughter #2.

I live near the cursor in the above picture... it is only going to get worse.

What a pisser of a birthday...


Don't care how they do it, just kill it!


From his fourth-floor window at Tampa's Moffitt Cancer Center, Robert A. Gatenby can look down to where patients stand waiting for valets to retrieve their cars. They have gone through chemotherapy, biopsies, radiation. They are pale, anxious, resolute. Some will live and some will die: a young woman with short hair, clutching her partner's hand; an older man, alone. Students from the nearby University of South Florida pop out of patients' cars. Peppy and dressed in blue vests, these cheerful valets look as if they could be working at a luxury hotel in the tropics. But nobody here is on vacation.
Gatenby says he sometimes sees patients retching after chemotherapy, which reminds the 62-year-old radiologist that his Integrated Mathematical Oncology Department—the only full-scale outfit of its kind in the nation—does not have the luxury of time. Mathematics is not generally known for urgency. Few lives hinge on proof of the twin prime conjecture, but the mathematicians and oncologists Gatenby has assembled in Tampa are trying to tame the chaos of cancer in part through the same differential equations that have tortured so many generations of calculus students. By mathematically modeling cancer, they hope to solve it, to make its movements as predictable as those of a hurricane. The patients down there, fresh from treatment, need shelter from the storm.
Gatenby's small corner of Moffitt bears little resemblance to a medical center: There are no white-coated doctors frantically rushing to save patients or synthesizing miracle cures deep into the night. You might think you've found yourself in a sleepy academic department where abstract ideas are kicked around like a soccer ball on the college green. Which, come to think of it, is actually a pretty accurate description of what goes on in Gatenby's lab, though not at all a pejorative one. The mathematicians in his employ are convinced that we do not really understand cancer and that, until we do, our finest efforts will be tantamount to swinging swords in utter darkness. As far as these Tampa iconoclasts are concerned, your average cancer doctor is trying to build a jetliner without having grasped aerodynamics: Say, how many wings should we slap on this thing?
A Malicious Green Cloud
We have been fighting the War on Cancer since 1971, when President Richard M. Nixon declared that the "time has come in America when the same kind of concentrated effort that split the atom and took man to the moon should be turned toward conquering this dread disease." Four decades later, 1,665,540 Americans per year hear the dreaded diagnosis, and about 585,720 die annually from some variety of the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. Smallpox and polio have been cured or largely eradicated, but cancer remains the same scourge it was 4,500 years ago, when the Egyptian doctor Imhotep mused, in what may have been civilization's first stab at oncology, about how to treat "bulging masses on [the] breast." Modern oncology makes incremental advances, with a melanoma drug that extends survival by three months passing for a major breakthrough. This is nobody's fault, but everybody's problem.
Gatenby is tired of a fight we keep losing. After 30 years, he has come to the uneasy conclusion that cancer is smarter than we are, and will find ways to evade our finest medical weaponry. The weary warrior wants to make peace with cancer's insurgent cells—though on his own terms, terms that would spare the lives of many more patients. To some within the medical establishment, this might seem preposterous, but Gatenby relishes the role of the outsider.
Gatenby grew up in the Rust Belt town of Erie, Pa., where 12 years of Catholic school instilled in him "an incredible hatred of dogma." At Princeton University, he studied physics with some of the greatest scientific minds of the 20th century. Figuring he wasn't fated to join the physics pantheon, Gatenby turned to medicine. But medical school at the University of Pennsylvania was dismayingly similar "to the rote learning of catechism" he remembered from Saint Luke School. It felt like he was "going backwards."
Whether in the lab, the classroom or the clinic, Western medicine relies on cautious experimentation, its zeal for breakthroughs tempered by the Hippocratic injunction to do no harm. But that can foster a frustrating incrementalism that is itself injurious. David B. Agus, one of the nation's most prominent oncologists and a professor at the University of Southern California, explains that "you are not rewarded, in general, for taking risk. It's very scary to do something radically new."
Gatenby specialized in radiology and, after receiving his medical degree in 1977 and completing a residency, went to work in 1981 for the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. Fox Chase is to cancer research what the Boston Garden was to professional basketball. It was home to David A. Hungerford, one of two researchers responsible for discovering the Philadelphia Chromosome, a major clue to cancer's birth within the human genome. Among its current √©minences grises is Alfred G. Knudson Jr., whose "two-hit" hypothesis holds that cancer is triggered by an unfortunate accumulation of errant genes, harmful outside events (too much sun, too much red meat) or a combination of the two.
The study of genes did not interest Gatenby back then, nor does it interest him now, even though much of medicine is now in the thrall of genomics. Gatenby wanted to discover cancer's "first principles," the basic ideas behind the seemingly sudden explosion of cells that want to kill the very body that nourishes them. Sure, you could know the BRCA1 gene better than you know your own mother, but unless you had some insight into why it caused a furiously impervious breast cancer, you were trying to find your way out of a forest by studying the bark of a single tree. Gatenby sought to understand cancer with the same totality that Newton had understood gravity.
As with Newton's famous laws of motion, mathematics seemed to hold the key. Math had been used to model the weather and financial markets, which like the human body are fickle and incredibly sensitive to outside forces (a run on Greek banks; a low-pressure system moving down from Canada). Gatenby saw no reason the same could not hold true for cancer. He spent a year reading math, which puzzled his colleagues. Then, while visiting the Cloisters museum in upper Manhattan with his family, he took a sheet of stationery and started scratching down equations he thought could get him closer to cancer's fundamental truths.
"To say they hated it would not do justice," Gatenby says of the response of his Fox Chase colleagues. Other oncologists told him that "math modeling is for people too lazy to do the experiment" and that "cancer is too complicated to model." The latter is a refrain that, 30 years later, still dogs Gatenby and his staff at the Integrated Mathematical Oncology Department, which includes five mathematicians with no formal experience in medicine.
Among those five is Sandy Anderson, a young Scotsman who dresses as if he were on the way to a Beck concert. There is a bottle of single malt on his desk. "Of course cancer is complex," Anderson tells me, brogue rising. "But how can you say it's too complex? That complexity should be viewed as a challenge that we have to try and tackle. And just because there's complexity doesn't mean there aren't simple rules underlying it.
"What we'd love to do is have everybody's own little hurricane model for their cancer," he explains. This is less a metaphor than you may imagine. Anderson shows me computer models of a breast cancer's growth, the cells spreading like a malicious green cloud across the screen. Different versions of the model show what happens when different treatments are applied: Sometimes the cancer slows, but sometimes it explodes. This seems like an intuitively rational approach to the disease, predicting how it responds to a variety of treatments. But it isn't common. There are about a dozen drugs for breast cancer approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Depending on which form of the disease is diagnosed and at what stage it's discovered, there's a maddening number of viable drug combinations. Best practices exist, but these can be anecdotal, doctors simply doing what they think works. The War on Cancer is fought by competing bands with their own weapons, cancer's chaos exacerbated by our own dismaying disorder. Anderson would like to provide the onco-soldiers with battlefield maps.

If this is the answer, it was a stupid question...


Occupy founder calls on Obama to appoint Eric Schmidt 'CEO of America'

Justine Tunney, a Google software engineer, is demanding that the tech industry take over the US government
Occupy Wall Street protestors in 2011.
Occupy Wall Street protestors in 2011. Photograph: KeystoneUSA-Zuma/Rex Features
One of the co-founders of the Occupy Wall Street movement has called on Barack Obama to resign as president, and “appoint Eric Schmidt CEO of America”.
Justine Tunney, a self-styled “champagne tranarchist”, is now a software engineer at Google, but remains involved with Occupy Wall Street, through the occupywallst.org website, which she created.
In the petition, which currently has two signatures (a far cry from the 195,000 who follow the Occupy Wall Street twitter account Tunney started in 2011), she calls on Obama to arrange a national referendum to:
  1. Retire all government employees with full pensions.
  2. Transfer administrative authority to the tech industry.
  3. Appoint Eric Schmidt CEO of America.
Tunney previously hit headlines when she reclaimed control of the Occupy Wall Street twitter account in February, and mooted the possibility of raising $1m to form a “non-violent militia”. Yasha Levine, a reporter for Silicon Valley publication Pando Daily, noted the seeming discrepancy between Tunney’s former anarchist beliefs and her current role at Google. Since her arrival at the firm, he writes, “she has become an astroturfer par excellence for the company, including showing up in a comment section to bash my reporting on Google’s vast for-profit surveillance operation.”
“It never ceases to amaze me how far people have to stretch in order to denounce the one corporation that gives away everything for free,” she wrote. Explaining on Twitter why she thinks anti-capitalism is compatible with promotion of her employers, she argued that “Tech companies expropriate ad money from capitalists to build a superintelligence & don’t pay dividends!”
“Silicon Valley is firmly post-capitalist. There just isn’t a name for it yet, nor an intellectual [assessment],” she continued.

Congress Critter update

Well, getting there...

March 14, 2014
Mr. James R. Crum

Dear James:
Given your concern about the Benghazi terrorist attacks that tragically took four American lives, I thought I would update you on my efforts as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee.  On February 7, 2014, I released a report entitled, "Benghazi: Where is the State Department Accountability?"  This report covers 16 months of work by congressional investigators who have interviewed numerous witnesses and reviewed tens of thousands of documents.  To read the full report and to keep up-to-date with the House's ongoing investigations of Benghazi, please visit: www.gop.gov/benghazi.
Among other things, here is what the report shows:
  • Although U.S. intelligence agencies warned extensively about the deteriorating security environment in Benghazi, State Department officials denied requests for additional security and withdrew existing security assets from Libya. 
  • Nevertheless, State Department officials acknowledged privately in June 2012 that our diplomats were vulnerable, and that security in Benghazi was no match for the growing terrorist presence there. 
  • After the attacks, the Administration misled the American people by blaming a YouTube video for a "spontaneous" demonstration that never happened. 
  • The official investigative body convened by Hillary Clinton, the Accountability Review Board (ARB), failed to review the conduct of senior Administration officials, including Secretary Clinton and her top deputies.
  • Nobody has missed a paycheck as a result of this deadly security failure.  The four employees cited by the ARB for their poor performance were temporarily suspended with pay and either reassigned to new positions within the State Department or allowed to voluntarily retire.
  • Not one terrorist has been brought to justice, despite the President's promise that it would be his top priority.
  • State Department personnel serve in some of the most dangerous places in the world.  While they don't expect their safety to be guaranteed, they do expect that their leaders will be held accountable for serious errors in judgment.  That has not happened in this situation.  To prevent another Benghazi, the State Department must recognize its failures and hold people accountable – starting at the top.
We must also fix critical shortcomings in the ARB review process.  How can the Benghazi ARB claim to have fully investigated the attacks without at least interviewing Secretary Clinton and her top deputies?  It is likewise unacceptable that the Secretary was allowed to stack the deck by selecting the ARB's members and staff.  That is why I authored the Accountability Review Board Reform Act of 2013 — to increase the independence of future ARBs from the Department and improve the transparency and reliability of future ARB reports.
It is our duty to ensure that vulnerabilities in the system and irresponsible decision making are addressed.  I will continue to push for accountability at the State Department and better security for its personnel abroad who work to promote our nation's interests.  Thank you again for your interest. 







Does a cure for multiple myeloma already exist?

Posted on March 05 2014 by Pat Killingsworth | 389 views

We spend so much time hoping and praying for a cure.  Could it be that for some, a cure already exists?
Most of you should already be familiar with Total Therapy (TT).  Developed over decades by Dr. Bart Barlogie at the University of Arkansas School of Medical Sciences (UAMS), TT is often criticized for being unnecessarily toxic and intense.  Yet as time goes by, TT has been producing some impressive numbers; half of low risk patients treated this way are living at least ten years.
But the question remains: do these impressive survival numbers prove some of these patients are cured?  Well read blogger and myeloma survivor, Nick Van Dyk, is part of the TT success story.  He was kind enough to jot down some of his thoughts about it:
nick van dykeI believe that Total Therapy represents a potentially curative option for a meaningful subset of newly diagnosed patients and can exceed a 50% cure rate for patients in the right population.  Patients who have (1) not undergone meaningful amounts of previous treatment for the disease, who are (2) young enough to benefit from the additional lifespan beyond the potential 5-10 years that less invasive therapy generally provides in a successful case, who are (3) healthy enough to receive multiple courses of chemotherapy including two high-dose courses of Melphalan, who are (4) psychologically prepared to embrace an aggressive treatment protocol and who are (5) prepared for the logistics of an extended stay at a center of excellence for this treatment (whether Little Rock, Iowa, etc.) should consider that, if they are in the 85% of patients with “low risk” disease, they have a better than 50% chance of being cured.
Does this statement with all its qualifications mean that Total Therapy constitutes a cure for the disease?  Biologically, it probably constitutes a good shot at it for those that are otherwise healthy.  Psychologically, not all patients are prepared for it — and I think that’s in part because they have been led to be terrified by the concept of a transplant, which is a shame.  For the older diagnosed patient (Tom Brokaw comes to mind), the incremental few years of life in his late 80s may not be worth the added intensity of treatment versus the less invasive program he is receiving at Mayo.  For the high risk patient, unfortunately, few if any cases are cured through existing treatments.  But still — for someone like me, diagnosed at 40, otherwise healthy, and prepared to fight like hell — the chance of a cure is not some shot in the dark, 2% chance.  It’s even money or better — and once one achieves remission and maintains it for a period of time, it approaches certainty.  Whether that period of time is 6 years, as BB (Dr. Bart Barlogie) and team now maintain, or some longer time frame as Rajkumar appears to suggest, it’s out there.  Dr. Rajkumar agrees with that much, and notes that people were cured 20 years ago with Melphalan and Predisone — just not very many.
BB and Total Therapy are curing a meaningful portion of patients that undergo Total Therapy.  Patient empowerment and a gradual broadening of the centers that offer Total Therapy as a choice should increase the reach of this alternative, and that’s a good thing.
My thoughts?  It’s clear to me that many myeloma specialists are beginning to advocate hitting multiple myeloma upfront and hard.  That’s what TT does.  There does seem to be some disagreement over whether tandem transplants are necessary.  However, employing them is consistent with a mission focused on knocking out myeloma early, before it can morph and evolve into multiclonal, drug resistant disease.
Are some patients that undergo Total Therapy cured?  Possibly.  But how many?  Certainly not 50%.  10%?  20%?  Your guess is as good as mine.  But keep in mind that otherwise healthy, low risk patients are likely to live longer regardless of the therapy.  Mayo Clinic just completed a retrospective study, looking back at low risk patients that had been treated there using incremental therapy.  The median life expectancy was also ten years.  I don’t believe the study tried to identify a cure rate; Mayo Clinic specialists still consider multiple myeloma incurable for all but a few “outliers.”
I believe this ongoing debate is a healthy one.  While we may not agree about how many patients TT cures, Nick and I do agree that the option of being treated aggressively should be offered to younger, low risk patients regardless of where they’re treated.
Thanks, Nick!  Here’s the link to his blog:
Feel good and keep smiling!  Pat